Dialectical relationship sociology and anthropology

Anthropology and Sociology

dialectical relationship sociology and anthropology

In conclusion the paper proposes a dialectical theory of the relationship that is . it has been traditionally viewed in social sciences and especially anthropology. 3 days ago A major in Anthropology and Sociology leads to further study at honours and . Political Science and International Relations provides an. The term "dialectic" is troublesome for sociologists, as for others. A dialectical bent has they have to do with the relations of proposi- tions, the character of dialectic in sociology should be . sociological frameworks, in the work of anthro- .

Through magic or the committing of a crime the individual breaks off with those forces which had up until then supported it.

For example, the Wakelbura who eats prohibited game will become sick, consume himself and eventually die while gasping out the sounds of the animal in question 1. According to Mauss the destructive effect of this collective suggestion takes place on the joint between man's social and biological nature, albeit minimally mediated by his individual consciousness. Karsenti states that this is only possible if one supposes that the collective resides within the individual, alongside the individual will to live.

Mauss explains this phenomenon with the assumption that psychological, physical and social forces coincide in the individual, and rejects the idea of a strict dissociation between the collective and the individual.

As such, this phenomenon is structured along these three axes: Contrary to Durkheim, who took the collective representations to be the primary object of sociology, Mauss wants to study the total individual through anthropology. He defends a return to man in his most concrete form. This is a psychological and biological individual who appropriates a fragment of the collective in a process called socialization.

Man is totally individual and totally collective. Moreover, both orders are subject to the same logic and the same laws. This totality can equally be found in language. Sociology and anthropology would benefit from adapting the methods of linguistics, because they form a science that studies a phenomenon that is both physiological, psychological and social. Mauss' concept of the total man implies that the anthropologist, as an observer, is of the same nature as his object of observation.

Not only does he approach this society as an object of study, he also participates as a subject in this so-called object. Moreover, he has to externalize his subjective experience in order to present it in a formalized manner.

This task would be impossible if the subjective and the objective would not meet at a given point. In this seminal work, Mauss describes the principles of the exchange of gifts in different cultures. The study yields several observed principles, which can be found among very differing cultures across the globe: Moreover, many cultures formulate an explanation for these principles in terms of their own systems of belief.

For example, the Maori of New Zealand refer to the hau. This is a spiritual essence which follows the gift wherever it goes and has the tendency to return to its origins. Therefore, if A offers a gift to B, and B passes this gift on to C, then C has to reciprocate to A for the hau present in the gift needs to be returned to its original source. A concept such as the hau is an element within a given symbolic system governing the exchange of gifts and as such should be scrutinized as to its function within this system.

He compares the hau and similar concepts with algebraic notions, which represent an undefined value of meaning but are themselves completely devoid of meaning. Their function is to reconcile the gap between signifier and signified. They are an attempt to restore a previously lost unity. As such, they do not represent an affective value, as Mauss arguments, but have a logical function and are to be situated on the same level as the relation they attempt to construct, which is a symbolic level.

Whether something, an object, belongs to one person or the other is but a derivative of the original, relational character of the underlying reality. This totality is reflected in certain linguistic expressions used by some primitive cultures where giving and receiving, or borrowing and lending, are designated by one and the same word.

As in any form of communication, the different terms implied i. Through the use of discrete elements it attempts to differentiate this previously undifferentiated reality. Terms such as subject and object, individual and collective, I and other, are differentiated through the use of the symbolic system. This is especially palpable in the principles present in the exchange of gifts. However, in such a system there is hardly any place for an individual separate from the collective.

However, the events of World War II have brought the dire effects of identification to Lacan's attention Roudinesco, [].

Moreover, a visit to England in acquainted him with the approach of Rickman and Bion in working with groups of mental patients during the war. Their views of group therapy were based on a conceptualization of the group in terms of horizontal identification Bion and Rickman, 2. However, in the years preceding it we see Lacan as a seeker, attempting not only to conceptualize a relation between the subject and the other that does not merely rely on identification, but also to formalize this relation in a logical system.

Traces of his quest can be found in his papers on the logic of the collective Lacan, [—][]. In a rare and rather dense paper Lacan [—] presents us with a mathematical riddle which reveals the principle of a logical connection between a group and the individuals that constitute it. We are offered 12 visually identical coins, amongst which one can be discerned on grounds of its weight.

Its quality does not concern us, the only thing that concerns us is the notion of its absolute difference. Furthermore, we have at our disposal a classic pair of scales. We lack the space to expound the complete solution to this riddle an excellent translation of Lacan's article can be found on-line.

We will content ourselves with a brief summary of Lacan's proceedings and his conclusions. After he has illustrated the solution to the problem as it is presented, Lacan ups the ante by adding another coin to the collection.

This can indeed be done, provided that we use another procedure than the one applied to a collection of 12 pieces. One merely has to follow three simple principles: However, the important thing to retain is the fact that this collection cannot be defined with the aid of any external criterium. There is no unifying characteristic other than the uniformity of the collection. Even when, in the first step, we isolate a coin that serves as a norm with which to compare the other coins, this is done through a comparison with the coins already present.

In other words, the absolute difference that constitutes the individual in this collective can only be reached through a comparison with the others. Moreover, this relation between the individual and the collective can be formalized through a logical formula. In a paper that chronologically precedes this one, but which logically forms its consequence, Lacan [] formulates how the subject asserts itself against the collective.

Lacan presents us with yet another riddle. Three prisoners are summoned by the warden who promises to grant one his freedom if he successfully stands a test. He presents them with five disks: Each prisoner will have a disc attached to his back such that he himself cannot see the color of his own disc, but can perfectly observe the disks the other two are wearing.

dialectical relationship sociology and anthropology

Moreover, they are not allowed to communicate. The purpose of the test is to infer what color disc one is wearing based on logical reason. Thereupon, the warden distributes the white disks among the prisoners. After staring at each other for some time, all three prisoners head for the warden. In the ideal solution one prisoner, A, starts from the hypothesis that he is black.

Within this condition another prisoner, B, could make the same hypothesis and easily come to the conclusion. If he were indeed black, the third prisoner, C, would see two black disks and leave at once. However, C does not move at once.

  • Careers and further study
  • Contact us
  • UCL facilities

Therefore, B can conclude that he is not black and leave. Yet, B does not leave either. And because in reality all three prisoners followed the same path of reasoning, they all leave once they have reached this conclusion.

Lacan is hard pressed to point out the sophistic nature of this solution. For if they all leave at the same time, they all must doubt their initial conclusion which was based on the fact that the others remained standing still.

Therefore, after they have all left, their doubts will make them all pause. This scenario is reminiscent of Achilles and the tortoise, and one can wonder whether they will ever reach the warden. Lacan arguments that they will, and that they only need two stops to come to an absolute, logical certainty. For the first halt objectifies B's conclusion: The second stop objectifies A's conclusion: Thus, Lacan concludes, these temporal hesitations are a necessity in order to arrive at a logically sound argument.

The introduction of time in order to arrive at a logical conclusion does not agree with the spatial nature of classical logic, which is based on the universality of certain forms. One does not need time: However, Lacan states that in this logic of the collective three logical times can be discerned. The first is what he call the instant of the glance.

The riddle would be limited to this time if two black disks were distributed, its solution summarized in the following statement: This is also the subject present in Durkheim's mechanical solidarity: It merely serves a logical function within a closed, symbolic system.

Yet Lacan has something different in mind, namely a subject that asserts itself against the collective. In order to arrive at this assertion, the subject has to encounter the other. Indeed, the situation where one prisoner sees two black disks does not present itself.

Therefore, a second time is inaugurated with the following intuitive statement: In this time, one prisoner A in our example makes himself the object of the gaze of the other two and puts himself in their position. In this case, time is necessary for the other two to reach a conclusion because it is based on the fact that the other stands still which is interpreted as a hesitation.

Lacan calls this the time for comprehending. The subject of this time is a subject determined by the reciprocity of the other.

The relation between these subject is of an imaginary nature, meaning that the prisoners mirror each other Aucremane, The time for comprehending also puts every subject under a logical pressure. Indeed, how long does this comprehending take? If A hesitates to come to a conclusion and the other two precede him, he will never ever be able to reach any sound conclusion because it can only be based on their standing still. Therefore, a necessary moment of concluding interrupts the time for comprehending through the following statement: This statement is the subjective assertion.

The time for comprehending leads to a conclusion, but only if the subject anticipates the certainty of his conclusion and seizes it in a moment of urgency. Lacan operates a shift from spatiality to temporality, from a subject seized by an intersubjective logic to a subject that asserts itself in an act based on a judgment that lacks sufficient logical ground.

It can only exist on the condition that it has assumed the other forms of subjectivity i. Social science used to concentrate more on the descriptive aspects of relationships, but recently they have been transformed by influences that incorporate an explicit moral or judgemental base.

For example, it is not surprising that the extensive impact of feminist social science brings such disciplines closer to psychology as the main interest turns towards exposing and addressing what might be called the pathologies of the extant.

But there is a further consideration here. My initial concern was with how the word relationship was used. But one cannot examine the work of Bowlby, for example, without starting to become rather more concerned with the influence and consequence of that usage.

dialectical relationship sociology and anthropology

Bowlby clearly had a considerable impact through various forms of popular media on what mothers thought they were supposed to do as mothers - what a true mother is supposed to be like Riley Similarly with influences such as feminism we start to see that these academic literatures may play a major role in creating the normative formal expectations that people seem to have in their daily lives about how a relationship is supposed to be.

The mediation between the academic literature and the everyday comes increasingly through popular media, which constantly inculcates such moral and idealized models of relationships. Take, for example, television. Many countries relay what have become the classic US sitcoms as part of the daily fare of television over the last few decades, whether the Cosby Show, Rosanne, Malcolm in the Middle or cartoons such as the Simpsons.

All of these are set in family situations. All of them share a basic message which is that although the actual persons may be commonly dysfunctional, difficult and wrong, there is an underlying warmth and compassion that is based around a shared ideology about how, in the end, there is love and support based around the idealized normative roles expected of family relationships.

We are used to thinking about the normative as a discipline in Foucault's sense, mostly with respect to more formal institutionalised orders. For example I might have considered the work of Carol Smart and others e. Smart and Neale on how law acts as a similar source of normativity. But this idea of discipline is better appreciated through the constant flow between institutionalised orders such as law, popular media such as family sit-coms, and academic fashions such as psychoanalytical views on mothering, all of which seem to constantly influence each other.

Taken together it is not at all hard to explain why there remains such a consistent and normative position on formal relationships, in places as diffused and diverse as contemporary London, not just with respect to kin, but also relationships such as friendship, with strong normative expectations of each category of relationship. Not what academics or various disciplines mean by the word but what it implies in daily usage in a place such as London where I live and work.

Although there may be as many colloquial meanings of this term relationship as there are academic meanings, I think there is a dominant usage at present in everyday conversation. Today the word relationship is used increasingly as a kind of euphemism. If you ask a person whether they are in a relationship, it commonly tends to mean whether or not they are having, at least periodic, sex.

If this is used as a working definition of the term relationship, then we might ask what might be the consequence of this colloquial definition for what one might call colloquial practice, that is that actual variety of contemporary relationships. Discussing people's relationships is what I spend a good deal of my time doing when engaged in fieldwork, and at least in contemporary London I find that many people do seem prepared to ditch almost any kind of rule book or traditional expectations in favour of both creative and diverse practices.

To illustrate this I just want to list some of the varieties of relationships that I ended up listening to, sympathising with or gossiping about in the two weeks prior to writing this text.

Sociology of knowledge

One was a couple who had been together for ten years where the man told his partner the relationship was over, has refused to give any reason except to confirm that he was not in another relationship.

But because they have a flat together and both are skint they have continued to co-occupy this flat for six months in this state of non-relationship. In another case a woman can't decide whether a relationship of four years is actually over even though she has told the man in question it is, mainly because, as a thirty year old, she just can't stand the idea of the sheer effort involved in finding a new relationship.

Another woman shares a flat with a man of her age who is a very old friend. They are both straight, but she is quite certain they will never sleep together and claims they don't fancy each other. Yet she tells me she still feels guilty when she goes out with another man and neither tells the other about their, as it were, real relationships.

In that same week I also discussed a so called open relationship, and a largely internet based relationship. Yet there are also generalisations. For example, I seem to talk to countless English men and women who admit to their problems in finding and having relationships, and in particular the problem of telling the potential partners what they are thinking.

This may be and they may be extraordinary liberal at one level, but they remain in these conversations just as incapacitated by a certain English anxiety as in the film Brief Encounter.

Its not that I was studying relationships per. All this information came as the by product of two research projects; one on how material culture helps people deal with the loss of relationships, and secondly some new fieldwork on the study of denim blue jeans. The most relevant materials, at least from the first project, seem to amount to an ethnography of dumping and being dumped. So at one level the degree to which the term relationship has become colloquially a referent for sex, is perhaps an understandable simplification at a time when it is really hard to know what consistency the semantics of the term relationship might even aspire to given the diversity of practice.

This conclusion seems to hark back to the writings of Finch and Mason who were also evidently impressed by the diversity and complexity of the contemporary family. I am impressed by the even greater complexity and diversity of contemporary relationships. In addition most observers of London life today emphasise the increasing importance of friendship as well as kinship and relationships defined in terms of sexual activity.

The various contributors to Bell and Coleman show that friendship itself is varied in ethnographic encounters. Most of the contributions contest the basic opposition between a specific Western form based on an autonomous self free to spontaneously gift friendship in an affective bond, as against a much more constrained self within a kinship dominated society.

So again we have a similar range of practices. My concern here is with examples taken from specifically English contexts, which seems reasonable in the first instance since it is the English word relationship I am focusing upon. I would need others to comment upon the analogies and levels of generality that apply to other languages.

Finch and Mason used this evidence for diversity and complexity to support and integrate the contemporary anthropological approach to kinship as process. It was never my intention in this paper to repudiate or indeed detract from that contribution. But I want to keep a balance between this consideration of the colloquial use of the term and the academic use of the term which took us in the opposite direction, towards firming up the idea of formal and normative relationships.

I would argue that evidence for complexity and diversity does not preclude an equal and abiding emphasis upon normativity and formal ideals. Consider, for example, the case of friendship as discussed by philosophers.

When researching friendship in London there are still clear normative ideals of trust and reciprocity, even if they don't look much like the ideal types of Aristotle or Cicero. Failure to accord with these ideals may sometimes lead to a still greater sense of betrayal than failures of kin or even lovers. Similarly there are endless repetitions and reflections about whether, for example, one should first find a man who would make a good father and then fall in love with him, or have to wait till you fall in love first.

As well as a powerful normative dialogue about the state of being in love itself, which contrary to much modern sociology seems experienced more as a loss of agency than its expression. So somehow we have to contend with the simultaneous existence, even extension, of both of these trends, towards diversity and towards normative formality. I can see now, that this will have to await another paper.

My conclusions here refer only to social relationships. The essay began by welcoming current kinship studies that emphasise flexibility, negotiation and experience; aspects of relationships that had previously been neglected. I then argued for a consequential danger that this could, however, lead to a neglect of an equally important emphasis upon normativity and what I termed formal kinship. The contrast between these two was then opened up still further by a brief summary of some disciplinary approaches to relationships and a brief examination of the colloquial meaning of the term relationship.

The disciplinary literature not only theorised the normative in relationships but seems to bear some responsibility for actually constituting this normative aspect as part of our cultural expectations of relationships. By contrast, the colloquial use of the term relationships seems to take us in the opposite direction by showing how extraordinarily flexible, negotiated and experiential some modern relationships turn out to be.

I want to conclude by suggesting that this reinforces what I would call an essential dialectics that needs to remain at the heart of such studies. This book was based on a year's study of shopping on a single street in North London. My argument was that we live in a society with clear normative expectations of a series of roles and relationships that continue to matter a great deal to us.

Being a parent or sibling or husband, includes a whole series of expectations and idealisations of what the person who occupies that role should be like and how they should behave to us. But it is accompanied today by ever increasing diversity of actual relationships and behaviour and experiences of the ways we treat each other. In studying shopping I was trying to work out why people would buy this or that particular item of clothing or food as opposed to some other. My conclusion was that most often we buy things that in some small measure address the discrepancy between the normative ideal of the recipient and what you now know about what they, the individual, are actually like.

A typical gift for example, is not totally ad hominem to the personality of your father, nor idealised as appropriate for pure fatherhood, but is hoped to help bridge the discrepancy between these two. In other words, typically, we buy cook and serve the meal that is hoped to make one's actual husband just a bit more like what a husband ideally should be.

Most actual purchases seemed best explained from this perspective. I called it my peanut butter theory. A food that is seen as comparatively healthy and that also a food one's child will actually eat. This situation often expresses itself in terms of the internal contradictions of a relationship. To give another example, the study by Swidler of the way couples talk about love in middle class contemporary affluent United States. She notes the constant contradiction between knowing that - to be honest - people typically find a husband or wife out of a relatively small pool of possible people and it really might at the time just as easily have been someone else, and yet within a short time the whole ideology of love and marriage means they need to believe that there was a kind of inevitability to this specific person with whom they are in love.

I came to this approach though trying to analyse ethnographic material on shopping. But in this paper I am proposing a much wider foundation to this perspective. On the one hand one can now see how the literature and representation of relationships places emphasis upon the normative, and yet ethnographically we need to account for the wide diversity of actual relationships.

So the second half of this review puts into context the first half, an apparent oscillation in anthropological studies of kinship between studies that emphasis the more formal and the more experiential aspects of kinship. I started by saying I wanted to understand what I mean by the word relationship. My conclusion is that the word relationship when used of a social relationship implies a basic contradiction between its own normative aspect - the ideal that we ascribe to that category of person - and the actual entity that constitutes that person at the time.

This theory does not contradict the evidence for increasing diversity and flexibility of practice found in the colloquial use of the term relationship.

It also ameliorates the effects rather than contradicts the conclusions of Carsten and others who have tried to consider both the evidence for, and the consequences of, this increased diversity and flexibility.

A dialectical approach focuses upon the discrepancy between this diversity of practice and the retained formality of ideal and definition applied to kinship as roles. I find this approach productive. It was used initially to explain the precise details of what people purchase in shopping.

In my current work on loss and the divestment from material culture, I use the same approach to see how after divorce or death objects again play a role in mediating this discrepancy between the memory of the actual person lost and our idealised model of the formal relationship they represented. How through objects a difficult cantankerous grandmother become remembered as the beloved gran. I would hope this approach could potentially be just as productive for others as it has been for me.

But first we would have to acknowledge the retained importance of normative formal expectations as an integral part of what we mean, and what most people colloquially mean, by the term relationship. Carsten, J The heat of the hearth: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship. Harvard University Press Clarke, A. University of Chicago Press Miller, D. The Empire of Things: Regimes of value and material culture Sante Fe: School of American Research. Stanford University Press Morgan, D.

Polity Press Moss, B. Annual Review of Anthropology University of the Philippines Press Riley, D. Prentice Hall Smart, C.

Environmental sociology - Wikipedia

Man acquires a self or personality only living in a society. From birth to death individual acquires different social qualities by social interaction with his fellow beings which moulds his personality. Individual mind without society remains undeveloped at infant stage. Thus, from the above discussion we conclude that Man is a social animal. His nature and necessities makes him a social being. He also depends on society to be a human being.

He acquires personality within society. There exists a very close relationship between individual and society like that of cells and body. Relation between Individual and Society Human cannot survive without society and societies cannot exist without members. Likewise can competition with other societies strengthen the social system, while wearing out its constituent members?

This idea was voiced by Rousseau who believed that we lived better in the original state of nature than under civilization, and who was for that reason less positive about classic Greek civilization than his contemporaries. The relation between individual and society has been an interesting and a complex problem at the same time.

It can be stated more or less that it has defied all solutions so far. No sociologist has been able to give a solution of the relation between the two that will be fully satisfactory and convincing by reducing the conflict between the two to the minimum and by showing a way in which both will tend to bring about a healthy growth of each other.

Aristotle has treated of the individual only from the point of view of the state and he wants the individual to fit in the mechanism of the state and the society. It is very clear that relation between individual and society are very close. So we will discuss here Rawls three models of the relation between the individual and society: His most telling argument against the utilitarian position is that it conflates the system of desires of all individuals and arrives at the good for a society by treating it as one large individual choice.

It is a summing up over the field of individual desires. Utilitarianism has often been described as individualistic, but Rawls argues convincingly that the classical utilitarian position does not take seriously the plurality and distinctness of individuals [15]. It applies to society the principle of choice for one man. Rawls also observes that the notion of the ideal observer or the impartial sympathetic spectator is closely bound up with this classical utilitarian position.

It is only from the perspective of some such hypothetical sympathetic ideal person that the various individual interests can be summed over an entire society [16]. The paradigm presented here, and rejected by Rawls, is one in which the interests of society are considered as the interests of one person. Plurality is ignored, and the desires of individuals are conflated.

The tension between individual and society is resolved by subordinating the individual to the social sum. The social order is conceived as a unity. The principles of individual choice, derived from the experience of the self as a unity, are applied to society as a whole. Rawls rightly rejects this position as being unable to account for justice, except perhaps by some administrative decision that it is desirable for the whole to give individuals some minimum level of liberty and happiness.

But individual persons do not enter into the theoretical position. They are merely sources or directions from which desires are drawn.

Justice as Fairness The second paradigm is that which characterizes the original position. It has already been suggested that this is a picture of an aggregate of individuals, mutually disinterested, and conceived primarily as will.

While not necessarily egoistic, their interests are each of their own choosing. They have their own life plans. They coexist on the same geographical territory and they have roughly similar needs and interests so that mutually advantageous cooperation among them is possible. Thus, one can say, in brief, that the circumstances of justice obtain whenever mutually disinterested persons put forward conflicting claims to the division of social advantages under conditions of moderate scarcity [17].

Here the tension between individual and society is resolved in favor of plurality, of an aggregate of mutually disinterested individuals occupying the same space at the same time.

It is resolved in favor of the plural, while giving up any social unity which might obtain. The classical utilitarian model and the original position as sketched by Rawls provide paradigms for two polar ways in which the tension between the plurality of individuals and the unity of social structure might be resolved.

One resolution favors unity and the other favors plurality. It is described as a good, as an end in itself which is a shared end. This paradigm is distinct both from the conflated application to the entire society of the principle of choice for one person and from the conception of society as an aggregate of mutually disinterested individuals.

The idea of a social union is described in contrast to the idea of a private society. A private society is essentially the second model as realized in the actual world. It stems from a consideration of the conditions of the original position as descriptive of a social order.

Over against this notion of private society, Rawls proposes his idea of a social union [18]. It is one in which final ends are shared and communal institutes are valued. Marx and Engels on Relationship between Individuals and Society The direct elaborations of Marx and Engels on relationships between individual action and social process can be divided into three categories for purposes of discussion: Besides, the relationship between individual and society can be viewed from another three angles: Functionalist, Inter-actionist, and Culture and personality.

How Society Affects the Individual? What is the relation between individual and society? Functionalists regard the individual as formed by society through the influence of such institutions as the family, school and workplace. Early sociologists such as Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim and even Karl Marx were functionalists, examined society as existing apart from the individual. For Durkheim, society is reality; it is first in origin and importance to the individual. In contrast to Auguste Comte known as father of sociologywho regarded the individual as a mere abstraction, a somewhat more substantial position by Durkheim held that the individual was the recipient of group influence and social heritage.

How Is Society Constructed? How an individual helps in building society? For inter-actionists, it is through the interaction of the people that the society is formed. The main champion of this approach was Max Weber social action theoristwho said that society is built up out of the interpretations of individuals.

The structuralists or functionalists tend to approach the relationship of self individual and society from the point of the influence of society on the individual. A prominent theorist of the last century, Talcott Parsons developed a general theory for the study of society called action theory, based on the methodological principle of voluntarism and the epistemological principle of analytical realism.

The theory attempted to establish a balance between two major methodological traditions: For Parsons, voluntarism established a third alternative between these two. He added that, the structure of society which determines roles and norms, and the cultural system which determines the ultimate values of ends.

dialectical relationship sociology and anthropology

His theory was severely criticized by George Homans. A recent well-known theorist Anthony Giddens has not accepted the idea of some sociologists that society has an existence over and above individuals. Culture and Personality View: Or How Individual and Society Interacts?

Both the above views are incomplete. In reality, it is not society or individual but it is society and individual which helps in understanding the total reality. The extreme view of individual or society has long been abandoned. Sociologists from Cooley to the present have recognized that neither society nor the individual can exist without each other.


These anthropologists have studied how society shapes or controls individuals and how, in turn, individuals create and change society.